Blog Post

Sun's xVM VirtualBox: Free Virtualization

Recently, I’ve been working with Sun’s open source xVM VirtualBox virtualization software, which is definitely worth a look for web workers who would like to run one more than one operating system on a single machine. Sun’s desktop virtualization environment runs on Windows, Solaris, Mac OS X, or Linux systems, and lets users create a number of virtual machines onto which they can install whatever operating systems they need to use. I’ve found very little performance degradation using it (as long as you have an adequate amount of memory), and it’s free, unlike VMware Fusion and several other competitors.

You can download the Sun xVM VirtualBox virtualization application as freeware, or get it as a free, open source edition. It takes less than ten minutes to set it up, and Sun has a couple of online videos worth watching. Its primary audience is developers who want to write for multiple operating systems, but individual users can good use out of it too.

The first video Sun offers features Sun’s Solaris CTO discussing the technical features in xVM VirtualBox. The second video, at the same link, shows specifically how to get started with the application, and set up multiple operating systems on one machine. If you watch, it’ s clear how easy it is, especially for developers.

Of course, there are many choices when looking into virtualization, including some that are easier to implement than Sun’s solution. Over on the OStatic blog, we’ve looked at choices for running Linux in conjunction with other operating systems. We’ve also discussed Parallels there, which is the choice of many Mac users for combining multiple operating systems on one machine.

Historically, the problem with running dual operating systems on the same system was lousy performance. It can still be a problem, but if you are running a reasonably high-end system, and have a decent amount of memory, it’s no longer a big bugaboo. Sun’s xVM VirtualBox environment, Parallels, and VMware remain my favorite choices in this arena.

What do you recommend on the virtualization front?

5 Responses to “Sun's xVM VirtualBox: Free Virtualization”

  1. I’ve been using Virtual PC 2004 (free now). It is less resource intensive than VMWare Workstation. My needs are not complex, so the older version works very fast and does what I need. I have a 2GB XP workstation here and can have five virtual PCs running with 128MB XP with no problems.

  2. I’ve used VirtualBox for some time to have a Windows XP over Linux and had almost no problem, and I was using it to develop tools in Visual Studio 2008 Express.

    The only limitation is not having support for multiple file in virtual hard disks. This means if the host physical hard disk is formatted with FAT32 the largest virtual disk will have 4GB, something that doesn’t happen in VMware.

  3. Interesting, I guess I’ll have to give this a shot and see how it compares to VMware.

    Oh, speaking of VMware; I know you mentioned Fusion isn’t free, but for the less Mac-oriented folks, VMware Player and VMware Server are are free alternatives.

    Err, wait. I must’ve caught an earlier version of the post in the feed reader. Just noticed you don’t mention Fusion in the first paragraph now. Funky :-)

  4. I’ve been running VirtualBox for the better part of a year now and love it.

    I would point out, however, that while it is technically “Sun’s”, that’s only due to Sun having very recently bought Innotek, the company that created VirtualBox.